Tag Archives: drainage holes

Worm Bin Composting and Drainage Holes

Folded newspaper showing air spaces

Folded newspaper showing air spaces

There are many different approaches to worm bin composting. I see that a lot of the DIY(do it yourself) worm bin composters on the internet recommend putting in drainage holes. I have harvested several batches of vermicompost without the drainage holes. Though my bin gets quite moist it has never had enough moisture to drain out drainage holes.

I am just wondering about drainage holes because my worm bin, the Worm Friendly Habitat , is now sold with drainage holes in the bottom.  Because I have been successful without the drainage holes I hesitate to use them.  Mainly for one reason:

I don’t want the red wigglers going out the drainage holes. My experience with the Worm Factory was that lots of worms went down into the drainage tray. They seemed to like to hang out there. Once a week I would have to take the Worm Factory apart to get the worms out of the leachate and put them back into upper trays. So I want to avoid the Rubbermaid worm bin that uses 2 bins, one stacked into the other, creating a drainage area. I don’t want to have to take it apart once a week to rescue the worms that have ventured out and to make sure that it is still an aerobic environment.  This means that there is enough oxygen and that the worm bin does not smell badly.

The new Worm Friendly Habitat bin with drainage holes just sits on a tray. I wondered if the worms would come out onto the tray in the dark. Hardware cloth or screen does not prevent this. I have already experienced this. Somehow the worms go right past any hardware cloth or screen.

There are 3 issues causing too much moisture:

  1. Too many worms for the space
  2. Feeding too much food that has a lot of moisture such as melon rind
  3. Wetting the bedding too much in the beginning
Worm Bin Composting

Worms covered with moistened newspaper in dry shredded newspaper

So my bin right now has a lot of moisture but not nearly enough to go out of drainage holes and I am having to add shredded paper, egg cartons, folded newspaper or shredded cardboard to the bottom of the bin to absorb some of the moisture. I find folded newspaper works very well.  You take 2 sheets of newspaper which equals 4 pages.  Fold it in half three times.  Then you have an awkward looking folded newspaper that wants to pop up all the time.  I put that in the bottom of the bin under everything so that the weight of the stuff holds it down but it still has air between the folded pages creating a good absorbing medium with aeration.  If it gets really wet I lay it on top in the bin with the other paper covering it all up.  The worms congregate in this folded paper so it seems like they like it.There are too many worms in my bin.  They have multiplied nicely so I am going to start transferring some of them to a new bin.  The bin is also at the point of letting it sit for a while for the worms to finish the process.

In the Worm Factory when one layer is full you move it down and don’t add food anymore and let the worms finish the composting process.  This is what my bin is ready for, no more feeding just finishing the composting process.  Don’t panic because the worms won’t be fed.  I have had finished compost sitting in Whole Foods lettuce containers for months and invariably after I have removed all the worms I miss some and the cocoons so the worms live in there for months re-processing the compost and they do fine.  I am always amazed at how long they can live and grow and multiply in finished compost.  They also do fine in the Worm Factory without regular feeding, sometimes in several layers because you only feed the top layer in the Worm Factory.

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Worm Factory Review

In this Worm Factory review I will address some of the problems that I encountered with it.  It was the  third method that I used for worm composting.    In my Worm Factory I continually had to open it up to get the worms out of the bottom drainage level.  They consistently ended up there.  This is one reason why I hesitate to put drainage holes in a DIY worm bin because I know how red wigglers migrate out of drainage holes.

Though the Worm Factory is very compact and neat looking it does have some usability issues.  It is a good practice to go into the worm bin about once a week and stir up the bedding and see how they are doing.  This also aerates the worm bin which is a good thing.  Worms need oxygen to live. With the Worm Factory it is hard to get into the bin to see how the worms are doing or to get them all out of the drainage tray:

You have to lift off the trays depending on how many you have.

When they are full they are heavy and I was never quite sure where to put them because a lot of worms would be hanging out the bottom and I didn’t want to squish them.

So if you have, say, 3 trays, you have to lift out two of them before you can see or work with the lowest level and to see what is happening in the bottom tray.  This is important because the weight of all the upper trays compresses the lower tray so there is not so much available oxygen.  Sometimes my lower tray wouldn’t smell so good because of a lack of plentiful oxygen.  I would always mix up the compost in the lower bin to oxygenate it.

Then you need to remove the lowest tray to get the worms out of the bottom.  There were always lots of worms in the bottom where the spigot is.  I would put layers and layers of newspaper in the lowest tray to block them from going into the drainage tray  but they still managed to get down there.  I don’t know what attracted them there.  Maybe there were a lot of bacteria down there??  Maybe they didn’t have enough oxygen in the tray above because it was so compressed by the weight of the trays above it. But they were always there and I had to scoop them out and put them into another working tray.

Some ads say that “worm tea” collects in the bottom where the spigot is.  It is not worm tea but leachate.  It is the liquid that leaches through the worm bin and depending on the status of your worm bin it could contain harmful substances for plants.  Worm tea is the liquid from soaking finished worm compost in water for a day or two.  Read more at these links about leachate turning leaves yellow and the difference between worm tea and worm leachate.

  1. Using Worm Bin Leachate
  2. Difference Between Worm Tea and Leachate

I will continue with my review of the Worm Factory in my next post.  Please bear in mind these are my personal experiences with the Worm Factory and certainly on Amazon there are good reviews, also.